Dear Secretary of State,
The World Commission on Dams: Implications for UK Support for
the Ilisu Hydroelectric Project, SE Turkey
We are writing to draw your attention to the findings of the World
Commission on Dams and their profound implications for possible
UK support for the Ilisu Hydroelectric Project in SE Turkey. The
WCD's report, Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making,
lists seven major policy priorities: Ilisu contravenes each and
every one of them.
For the UK to support the project would be tantamount to a de
facto rejection of the report and, by implication, of international
best practice in the planning and implementation of dam projects.
We therefore urge you to act in accordance with the WCD's recommendations
and reject Balfour Beatty's application for export credit support
The WCD was set up by the World Bank and the International Union
for the Conservation of Nature in 1997 “to review the performance
of large dams and make recommendations for future planning of water
and energy projects”. Its independence - reflected in the composition
of the Commission - is widely acknowledged; and its report, based
on two and a half years of in-depth research and consultation, constitutes
the most comprehensive, global review of the economic, social and
environmental impacts of dams to have been undertaken.
The WCD's report provides ample evidence that large dams have
failed to produce as much electricity, provide as much water, or
control as much flood damage as their backers have claimed. In addition,
the WCD report documents a regular pattern of economically damaging
cost-overruns and delayed construction schedules. Furthermore, the
benefits of large dams have largely gone to the already well off,
while poorer sectors of society have borne the costs through displacement
and ecological degradation. The report also disputes claims that
dams can be assumed to be climate-friendly.
The Commission sets out a new framework for decision-making, based
on five core values: equity, sustainability, efficiency, participatory
decision-making, and accountability. The new framework is intended
to ensure that decision-making on water and energy development “reflects
a comprehensive approach to integrating [the] social, environmental
and economic dimensions of development”, in addition to “creating
greater levels of transparency and certainty for all involved”.
The Commission proposes seven strategic priorities and corresponding
policy principles for water and energy resources development – gaining
public acceptance; comprehensive options assessment; addressing
existing dams; sustaining rivers and livelihoods; recognising entitlements
and sharing benefits; ensuring compliance; and sharing rivers for
peace, development and security.
We have reviewed these recommendations against the Ilisu Hydroelectric
Project. We find that Ilisu contravenes all them in every detail.
- The WCD recommends that public acceptance must be gained, entitlements
recognised, benefits shared, and compliance ensured for any dam
project to go ahead. The Ilisu area has been devastated by armed
conflict, and remains under emergency rule. Freedom of expression
and freedeom of association do not exist, and the Kurdish communities
affected by the Ilisu dam cannot voice their opposition to the project.
In this context, there is no possibility that the measures recommended
by the WCD could be implemented. Such measures include: ensuring
that the project enjoys demonstrable public acceptance; negotiating
mutually agreed and legally enforceable agreements with affected
communities on resettlement and implementation; and ensuring compliance
through independent and transparent review. So far, the project
has been planned without any meaningful consultation or participation
of the affected communities or their elected representatives. No
resettlement plan for the project has yet been agreed. And those
opposed to the dam - the majority in the area - have complained
of harassment and intimidation.
- The WCD recommends that all water and energy projects must be
based on comprehensive options assessment. A January 2000 report
on Turkey by the International Energy Agency, citing the Turkish
Government’s own State Planning Organisation’s 1996- 2000 Five Year
Development Plan, concludes that “energy efficiency is considered
the cheapest energy source [and] potential gains to be achieved
by increased energy efficiency are substantial.” The IEA estimates
“the total energy saving potential for the three consumptive sectors
to be approximately 13.2 mtoe per year, corresponding to slightly
more than the current final energy consumption in the energy sector.”
The World Bank similarly notes that “considerable problems have
plagued operations of the existing power infrastructure.” In generation,
“the plant availability factor has remained low (40-60%) [and] the
losses in the transmission and distribution network continue to
be high at v18% of total generation (mainly in distribution).” Yet
no comprehensive options assessment for Ilisu has ever been carried
out. Many other options - notably demand-side management, improvements
in transmission and solar - all represent less costly, more sustainable
- The WCD recommends that the problems and potential of existing
projects must be addressed before new dams are built. The Ilisu
project is part of the gigantic Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP),
which comprises more than twenty dams on the Euphrates and Tigris.
The existing dams have displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Most of those evicted have not received any compensation or rehabilitation.
In a report commissioned by the Swiss export credit agency, Export
Risk Guarantee, World Bank expert Ayse Kudat points out that “there
are still a large number of people affected by previously constructed
dams who are still waiting to be resettled, sometimes for many years”,
and that “in the past 30 years resettlement was [only] provided
for about 100 families annually.”
- The WCD recommends that rivers and livelihoods must be sustained
in any dam project. On the Turkish part of the Tigris alone, at
least nine dams have been constructed or have reached the feasibility
stage. Yet no assessment of the cumulative social and environmental
impacts of these dams has ever been carried out, and so far, there
is no environmental impact assessment for Ilisu which measures up
to international standards.
- The WCD recommends that rivers must be shared for peace, development
and security. The planned Ilisu dam threatens to disrupt the flow
of the Tigris to Iraq and Syria. Turkey refuses to consult these
riparian countries on the impacts of Ilisu and other dams. Professors
Crawford, Sands and Boisson de Chazournes concluded in a detailed
legal opinion for Friends of the Earth that building the Ilisu dam
without such consultation would violate international environmental
law on several counts. Their conclusion has been confirmed in an
independent legal opinion prepared by Astrid Epiney, professor of
international law at Freiburg University, Switzerland. The WCD report
recommends that “where a government agency plans or facilitates
the construction of a dam on a shared river in contravention of
the principle of good faith negotiations between riparians, external
financing bodies withdraw their support for projects and programmes
promoted by that agency”.
In conclusion, the Ilisu project violates all seven strategic
priorities of the WCD. To approve an export credit for Balfour Beatty's
involvement in the dam would be to fly in the face of the WCD's
report, which is already widely acknowledged as a milestone in the
evolution of sustainable water and energy development policy and
practice. The message sent to the international community would
have severe repercussions for the UK's reputation abroad, undermining
public confidence in its commitment to sustainable development.
It would also signal that the Government's intended reform of the
ECGD lacks substance.
We urge you to give serious consideration to this matter and to
announce your withdrawal of support for the Ilisu Dam project.